Thursday, August 30, 2012

Wow. How flat was Romney tonight.

Though leaning Obama, I still wanted to be moved by Romney, simply because our country is in the economic pits right now and I wanted Romney to express his knowledge of that and his anger about that, and his desire and ability to FIX that...

Instead, Romney was Romney. No poetry at all about the condition of the country that we must somehow slog our way out of. It was a horrible speech, all about mundane things like, "I really do support women" and "Gas prices are too high" and "We need to support Israel." (We need to support Israel? THAT is an important issue right now?)

What an idiot. (And, as a side-note, I was also looking forward to Clint Eastwood's intro speech... Some "kick-ass" libertarianism to get the mild-mannered Republican regulars jazzed up... Instead, the man was nearly completely senile. What, did no one suggest that Eastwood WRITE a speech beforehand instead of rambling on ridiculously?)

What the hell just happened? The Republicans just lost the election I think is what just happened.


Hemingway often used cute names for things and "wimminys" ("women") is one of them! :) I was thinking a lot about wimminys today.

First was a wimminy (OK, I'll stop with that now!) on the elevator that I couldn't stop staring at for 5 floors. Dyed jet black hair in a circa '60 updo, full makeup, 40-ish, REALLY good-looking. Except she was in a building maintenance/housekeeping uniform: schlumpy work-shirt with name-tag, Dickie pants, black work-boots. The outfit was such a huge turn-off for me, and completely overrode how gorgeous her face and hair were. All I could think of was, "Good lord, what happened?! You shouldn't be cleaning up things!"

Another woman I've been noticing all week while going to my new temp job is a 30-something Sylvia-Plath-looking chick who's on my new bus route every morning and afternoon. Like Plath 1956. Interesting clothes of that vintage. Dark red lipstick. BOBBY PINS in her hair! And always dark sunglasses in the afternoon (but not morning), as if the day behind had pained her too much to look at the world directly! And she'll occasionally bring a hand to her forehead and look agonized. I'm not kidding! She lives in a neighborhood near mine, and I'm DYING to see where she lives and who she lives with! (Probably with some schlubby slacker guy, as most women in Austin seem to live with, but I keep hoping it's a Ted Hughes-lookalike, just to see how far she's taken the whole thing!) :) I was kind of disappointed one morning earlier in the week when the bus got to her stop too early and she was RUNNING to catch it and got on all flustered and a bit disheveled. She had such a cool PERSONA going on until then! :)

(FRIDAY ADDENDUM TO ABOVE THURSDAY POST: A dark, semi-handsome, hairy guy was coming on to my Plath-woman at the bus-stop/on the bus this afternoon! I couldn't stop looking at their interactions and, since I couldn't hear a word, couldn't figure anything out! Did they know each other beforehand? She seemed very animated at his attention! He got off at the stop just before hers and headed for the motel off the I-35 access road; as he exited, she called out "Good luck!" So I guess they did NOT know each other... Another thing I noticed today: She has slash-scars on the inside of her left elbow. No, I'm not making that up!)

And finally, today I was reading through old New Yorkers at work and came across the above-left photo that made me oddly YEARN... What the hell? I didn't recognize the woman, but it turned out to be Fiona Apple (whom I've never found particularly attractive before). The unusual shot of her reminded me for some reason of Sandra, the cheekbones. Sigh. And speaking of "cheekbones" and "Sandra-looking": Here's another of Julie Newmar and her Egyptian bestet cat. Meow! I've usually made fun of guys who kept dating/marrying women who looked very alike... I'm just as bad with the this-type-of-looks fetish! Throw in Joan Crawford and Anne Sexton (and Elvis), and you see the definite trend! I actually HATE that! Being aware that some things are just "determinism" rather than "free will"...


p.s. Speaking of having a type: My mom once let slip that she found actor Ed Harris attractive! Ed Harris! :) As it turns out, my father is EXACTLY that same type: blonde and bland/handsome. And then after the divorce, my mom dated a man off-and-on for 30 years (!) who also happens to fall into that looks-category. 15 or so years ago, my mom was packing to visit her sister in Germany and had a small photo album in her suitcase with photos of us kids, etc. I snuck a photo of the decades-long "boyfriend" into the album. When she got home weeks later, my mom was mad but laughing: Her sister had thought that the photo was of my father! :)

One of the oddest types (to me): Years ago, there was a guy in my writers' group who had a get-together at his house. In his BATHROOM, he had at least 6 or 7 framed pictures of... JODIE FOSTER and HELEN HUNT!!! Now THAT is just weird! :)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


A political junkie since, oh, age 4 or so (according to my mother's scrapbook), I've, yes, been paying attention to this week's Republican convention.

I'm still 60/40 leaning toward Obama, based almost solely on the Republicans' right-wing claims that poor women shouldn't have access to birth control or abortions, and that the love between gay people somehow isn't as spiritual or worthy of official state-sanctioned union as the unions sanctioned between straight people. (The latter group's marriage record is pathetic: 50% success rate? What about THAT is needy of official admiration by the state? What about THAT does gay marriage "threaten" exactly?)

I'm also in support of Obama's health-care plan. There are too many horror stories about people losing their life-savings and/or, more importantly, their loved ones because their stingy corporate health-care providers skimped on necessary care. The people were lower-class/lower-middle-class and couldn't afford the costs of extensive care when necessary. People were dying and their survivors were being bankrupt as a result. That crappy system needed fixing, on purely moral grounds.

So I'm leaning Obama, based purely on social issues.

But still, there's the underlying abstract (which actually does represent reality, a reality that I've deeply felt personally): Since 2008: the 25% increase in unemployment, the tripling of the budget deficit, the downgrading of the US Moody's rating for the first time ever... I'm 47, and I've NEVER been knocked around by the economy, ever, as like what I've experienced since 2008. This shit has seriously, deeply messed with my life both economically and psychologically. That's HARD to get past in favor of "well, Obama SOMETIMES does the right moral thing." (I.e., he's right on health-care and gay marriage, but his foreign policy is EXACTLY the same as Republicans, and his knowledge of the economy is non-existent.)

Another dilemma for me is how Romney actually governed in Massachusetts: Only 13% of the state is Republican. Yet he worked with the other side: Balancing the budget. Assembling a sensible health-care plan of his own volition. Supporting gay rights. Supporting women's rights to choice.

Yeah, the man sold his soul to the right-wing in this year's primaries in order to get the nomination. But the fact remains what he actually DID while in power in Massachusetts: balanced a deficit budget while not infringing on anyone's rights. And what he did in his business life: At Bain, cleaned up moribund companies (yes, sometimes cutting jobs, but often saving the company and, thus, the jobs); and then the famous "savior" act at the 1992 Utah Winter Olympics, when the US committee was engulfed in corruption and ineptitude, and Romney came in to clean up the whole mess.

Our country IS in a complete financial mess right now. Common sense says that Romney--based on his experience in the financial world--is the man with the knowledge and experience to clean up. My dilemma is: The "Massachusetts Romney" is the man to clean up! NOT the do-anything-to-win Romney that kowtowed to right-wing nuts in the primary.

There's a trope going around right now on the Internet that if you haven't made up your mind between Obama and Romney by this point in time, then you're essentially an idiot, since the philosophical choice is apparently so stark. Hah! The "choice" isn't very stark at all. Obama has as many corporate sponsors as Romney. Obama copied Romney's health-care plan. The Democrat/Republican foreign policy is exactly the same. And then: Romney's proved himself to be an extremely efficient leader in the tasks he's undertaken, while Obama has not.

It's a real dilemma to me.

Stranger, Saner Things

One nice thing about my current temp job: After the first day of mind-numbingly reading the job's guidebook and website dozens of times once any filing/phone-answering was done, I was given permission on the second day to bring my own reading material! THANK YOU!!

I've had over 20 New Yorkers stacking up since the Spring, some completely unread, some with just bits and pieces read... So now, for the past couple of days, I've gotten to systematically whittle down the stack. This week's (well, 8/27, since we get 'em late in Texas) was particularly filled with interesting stuff that made my brain feel awake and hopeful despite my deadening environment.

Reading backwards, as I always do:

First, learning about author Stefan Zweig (Austrian, 1881-1942; Jewish exile from Hitler, suicide in Brazil; apparently very literarily famous in the 20s and 30s), whom I'd never heard of before. A new bio to read--"Three Lives"--as well as his own memoir, "The World of Yesterday." A restless misfit, like me. From the article: "...his fixation on extreme psychological states coexists with something more distanced. Zweig relishes both the tumult of feeling and the way that even the most inchoate emotions, seen from the outside, tend to form a pattern." That's EXACTLY the kind of thing that interests me! Knowing that others were out there thinking the same things makes me feel like I'm not surreally alone today! (And by this point, trust me, my aloneness has gotten so extreme that it's indeed very surreal!)


Next was Alice Munro's story "Amundsen." A young woman, kind of flat in affect but psychologically aware, goes to teach at an outlying school and finds odd charm there, and an oddly flat but in-its-own-way-charming and then-moving kind of love. By the end: "Feeling the same as when I'd left Amundsen. The train dragging me, disbelieving. Nothing changes, apparently, about love." Nothing changes! You're jerked or coaxed out of your lethargy by someone not that persuasive, but...kinda persuasive--odd enough so that it seems a bit natural and "meant to be." And then... Nothing was meant to be! A writer managed to capture exactly the odd, completely random state of life itself.


Then the poem "Haste" by C.K. Williams:

Not so fast people were always telling me...

but the admonition that stuck was the whisper that girl that woman that smudged now
dear girl-woman legs so tightly wound round me sighed young as she was to my ear...

No one says Not so fast now not Catherine when I hold her not our dog as I putter behind her
yet everything past present future rushes so quickly through me I've frayed like a flag

Unbuckle your spurs life don't you know up ahead where the road ends there's an abyss?...


Then the Popeye cartoon, titled "$875,000 Later," with Popeye on the couch in a psychiatrist's office: " I yam what I yam, and that's all that I yam. But what if I yam NOT what I yam? What if I yam what I yam NOT? How do we know what we yam? If we yam..."


Then the article by Dr. Oliver Sacks detailing his many semi-controlled drug experiences that he pursued as an adult after his youthful "only reading about." Artane (completely imagining a mundane visit from friends for breakfast); then his cocktail of amphetamine/LSD/cannabis in search of the elusive color "indigo" (and he SAW it---and then only a glimpse or two later, and then not at all ever again, to Sacks's sadness); then the injection of morphine, after which he watched--FOR 12 HOURS--the 1415 Henry V Agincourt battle TAKING PLACE ON THE SLEEVE OF HIS DRESSING GOWN!; then the amphetamine-fuelled 10-hour reading binge of a 19th-century doctor's study of migraines that led to a breakthrough in Sacks's own work because he felt such an affinity for the 19th-century doctor (though Sacks never took amphetamines again afterwards). Made me feel like trying out all of these! I want to experience indigo and the 15th century and a deep mind-meld with a writer! Unfortunately, drugs make me more paranoid than I already am by nature (the last time I did anything illegal was in 2002; before then, there'd been another 10-year-gap); plus I don't have a safe, isolated place to take them and be able to THINK weird things in peace; plus stuff's all laced with poisons nowadays; plus I don't know anyone to buy anything from!


Then the article on German violinist Christian Tetzlaff. I don't know classical music. I inherited 25 or so classical CDs from my German aunt who died a few years ago. Still haven't listened to any of them. And I recently bought a 6-CD set of Rubinstein performing Chopin, just because I wanted to hear the exact Rubinstein version of Chopin's Ballade #1 in G Minor, Op. 23 CT. that Anne Sexton said was so orgasmic! Still haven't listened to that Ballade, or any of the rest of the set. But the article on Tetzlaff:

Performing music, he says, "is the job that has the most to do with the belief in the existence of the soul. I deal in Berg's soul, in Brahms's soul--that's my job....I find that music is humans' most advanced achievement, more so than painting and writing, because it's more mysterious, more magical, and it acts in such a direct way. Trying to turn lead into gold is nothing compared to taking something mechanical like an instrument--a string and a bow--and using it to evoke a human soul, preserved through the centuries."

Tetzlaff on the composers that he interprets with his violin: "Many of us can maybe imagine sounds, or have some musical ideas. But to have them consistently building whole works, and to have the means of transforming something that's in your ear into handcrafted written notes that give you back what you heard and what you felt -- I find it just utterly miraculous."

Tetzlaff on playing Bach: "Bach's music confronts the player and the audience in a very personal situation, in a very alone way. And I try at that moment to put away pretensions--in levels of violin playing, pretensions of being a strong man, of being invulnerable--and instead say, 'This is where we all have common ground.' Most of the time, we try to tell ourselves 'I'm confident' or 'I'm doing well.' But then, in a moment alone at home, you feel how close you are to some kind of abyss."

I got goosebumps. Truth. Mystery. Why we live. I'm not alone at a desk for 8 hours a day waiting for random calls, having to kow-tow to someone who's simply silly. There's some Truth beyond that I have to remember and seek.


And finally, in The Talk of the Town: the discovery of the "Higgs boson, which helps subatomic particles, and thus all the elementary matter in the universe, acquire mass... The Higgs suggests that there could be more dimensions of space-time than we previously thought....'We're here--there's something on the other side of Higgs that we're interacting with, that could be even bigger than the Higgs'..."

When they finally figure it--dark matter and energy--out, it's going to be revealed as "souls" of every once-living thing since the beginning of the Universe. Remember the scientific principle: Energy cannot be created or destroyed. All that once-living energy had to go somewhere. Maybe, just maybe, it's in the 75% of the universe's "dark matter/energy" that scientists can now identify but not account for.

When they discover what's "on the other side of Higgs," talking to the dead will become mundane, and we living will be much more sane as a result.

Stranger things have happened.


I'm amazed and grateful that in the middle of my horrible dark feelings that such a huge amount of hopefulness and indication of other worlds would be available to me, all revealed in one issue of one magazine in one day while trapped at a desk phone-answering and filing. THANK YOU, UNIVERSE, for everything above.

So much for learning humbleness!

I just re-read my last entry... Looks like my last years of struggling haven't taught me much gratitude or humbleness, that's for sure! Sigh. But hey, at least I'm not storming off any job in a huff any more, like I used to in the Golden Days o' Full Employment! And, as usually happens, this temp office job is getting more tolerable as I learn more: I did the damn packages correctly today!

Though there was another little run-in with the same woman about which folders to file things in: I got a stack of related stuff from the big boss lady, who then walked out of the office. So I checked with my co-worker:

ME: Are these all filed in the "Monthly" folders that I worked with yesterday?
CO-WORKER: What do the pages say at the top?
ME: "Room Schedules."
CO-WORKER: Then [implied "duh"], put them in the folder labeled "Room Schedules"!
ME: [finding a folder with that EXACT title: "Room Schedules."] Just to make sure: This is the right one?
CO-WORKER: No, that's NOT the right one! Don't you remember the "Monthly" folders that you worked with yesterday? THAT's where they go!
ME: But you just said NOT to use those! You said to use the "Room Schedules" folder!
CO-WORKER: I did NOT say that!

I thought I was about to go mad!!!! God, I'm grateful for the work, any work, but do I REALLY have to deal with these types of petty people STILL??! Waaaaaaaaah.

Monday, August 27, 2012

"Show some initiative."

Seriously. A sad-sack long-term university employee who fears the sun while standing at a cross-walk dares to tell me, "Show some initiative" because when a package arrived in the office on my first day at a temp gig, I gestured at the mail-guy to give it to HER. (What the hell did I know about a package arriving at this new place?) I don't mind being a temp receptionist, but don't you idiots DARE tell me to "show some initiative."

I love that definition of "initiative."

As the afternoon wore on, I'd read the guidebook 10 times, I'd read the website 10 times... At about 3pm, I finally told the woman: "Is there ANYTHING I can be doing right now? I can't read the website or the guide-book any more!" She told me to sit and watch the door for packages to arrive. I sat and watched the door for packages to arrive. And earned my $12 per hour.

Funnily, during my temp time today, I was responsible for stapling together candidates' intro letters to their resumes for this very job... a job that pays $2000 a month! There were dozens of letters applying for this crappy job. Some letters running on for 2 pages; some resumes (crazily) running on for 6 pages; some people applying from as far away as California and Iowa... for a $2000-a-month job!

Is America THAT bad off, where people are THAT desperate for $2000 a month? For some reason, I myself have been slummed down into this category... I fucking REJECT this with my whole heart and soul, simply because I've worked way beyond this rudimentary level where a long-term state-flunky can even EVER criticize MY work ethic! Jesus Christ, I'm pitiful for being in this economic situation.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Evolution of a One-Room Apartment (2010-12)

RE the last one: I've got the majority of my CDs back now!! :) While in the future, I'll be transferring all to an iPod, I still want all of them THERE. Like all the books that have mattered to me. I'm sure that one day I'll have them all on Kindle, but I also want their physical presence in my living space!

RE the second and third ones: While the "leaning tower o' books" actually looked kind of conceptual and cool (according to random visitors like 7-year-olds and their fathers!), I HATED its utter dyfunctionality! Particle-board from Target. And I wouldn't even MIND particle-board if it would stand UP straight and firm! I've bought 3 of these cheap bookshelves in my lifetime, and never had a problem with the first 2, but the 3rd...made my life miserable just looking at it! I've been afraid to touch any book on any shelf for fear of some big-time, loud tumblage in the middle of the night. And so it was with GREAT PLEASURE that I threw that thing out by the apartment dumpster a couple of days ago, in anticipation of the NEW, STURDY bookshelf!!! Look at how pretty!!!!!!

The new bookshelf, and the new chair, are courtesy of birthday money from my mom and b'day/last Christmas money and labor from my brother. For the past couple of holidays and birthdays of mine, I've told him that all I wanted was a cheap used chair and/or bookshelf from some vintage shop around town. A chair that wasn't made of foam, and a bookshelf that wasn't flimsy. As two years have rolled by, with no chair/shelf despite a couple of desultory shopping trips with no bargains/good stuff evident (and since when is a brother/sister shopping trip ever that productive?), we FINALLY last weekend came upon a GREAT place on Burnet Road in Austin... "It's New to Me."

After looking at a bunch of used/new bookshelves at various places around town for $80 to $200, found mine in the picture at "It's New to Me" for only $55!! (My brother bargained down from $65.) And that chair, same thing at the same place: The only "vintage" chairs we'd found elsewhere around town for under $100 were extremely crappy and rickety and missing things (like good upholstery and springs!).

This huge, comfortable, nice-looking chair was only $95! When I saw the "Crate and Barrel" label, I immediately remembered how Rachel in "Friends" was mocked for liking "Crate and Barrel" in one episode... I have no experience with Yuppie shopping, and I, by inclination, certainly don't want anything that a 1990s Yuppie would like... But I still really liked that chair! It was the most comfortable chair I'd ever sat in. (Unlike the $100 vintage '50s chair my bro and I had seen earlier in the day, with tattered upholstery and hard springs and rickety legs; kind of like the vintage red-velvet furniture I'd bought back in the early 2000s, before moving to NYC: It all looked cool, but I rarely sat on it because it wasn't comfortable.)

I debated and debated about the $95... and I didn't/don't like beige. But it was a big, sleek-looking, AND comfortable chair...and I SO didn't just want to continue to come home and lie down on my bed or get on my computer any more just because all there was to sit on was a crappy green foam-thing salvaged from my mother's old house. It would be nice to come home and to be able to SIT in a CHAIR in the LIVING ROOM (as opposed to lying on the bed or docking at the computer table)! My brother didn't help all that much --- "Crate and Barrel? That's like a Target chair. But if you want it, go on."

I bought it because I liked it/needed it, despite all outer TV/bro influences. And then went home and looked up "Crate and Barrel" online: Their living-room chairs start at $800! :) I liked the chair, I snatched a used version for $95, and now it looks and feels fantastic in my one room of an apartment! :)

May I never see that green-foam-uncomfortable-thing-called-a-chair-that-I-couldn't- sit-on-and-had-been-using-to-lay-bills-and-handbags-on again!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Vagaries of Freelancing

I'm half-German, which is most likely why I like my ORDNUNG ("order")! Which is most certainly what I did not get today at work!

Around 10:30am, my boss came in the office that we 4 temps have been sharing (me in this room since May though I'd worked at the department since March, the others there since July). I heard her talking quietly, one-by-one, with the 3 others, then she came over to me with the news: The department has suddenly run out of money, so we should all just go home!


OK, so we were all scheduled to end the jobs next Friday the 31st anyway, so it's not like I had tenure or anything! But still, I was a bit discombobulated! Over the next week-and-a-half, I'd planned on gradually cleaning out the files I'd saved over the past 6 months and taking down the few minor decorations I'd put up (just Joan and New Yorker cartoons), and having time to contemplate, "Oh, this my last lunch I'll have at the cafeteria across the street" and "This is the last lunch I'll have at the mall up the block" and "This is the last cigarette I'll smoke while sitting on this wall" and even, "This is the last time I'll catch this bus and make this 8-minute walk down this hill." Stupid little minor goodbyes to a source of security (both mental and financial) over the past 6 months.

But nah. Instead, a hectic last 2 hours of both cleaning up 6 months of work/life and getting a bit of last-minute work in before leaving after a half-day.

We may all be called back tomorrow to finish out our week-and-a-half, if the department "figures out" what happened to the money in their account that paid us. Or we may not be. (Probably the latter.)

I'm kind of mad at myself that I can't just "roll with the flow and/or punches." This isn't THAT big of a deal. It's only a week-and-a-half of work, after all. But a week-and-a-half in which I would have earned $1700, for one thing! That would have been a whole MONTH of rent/bills for me. Or a new computer. Or a trip to Boston in the fall.

And, just in general, it's kind of disturbing that nobody was minding the payroll accounts store! How in the hell do you JUST figure out one morning: "Ooops! We can't pay you!" and then tell people 10 minutes later, "B'bye! Get out!"

So I came home and took a 4-hour depression nap in the afternoon; now I'll probably be up 'til 4 or 5am. Shades of my life/schedule for the 2 years previous to this gig. Ugh.

I need some ordnung.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Bei Hennef (D. H. Lawrence)

Came upon this while doing some literature freelance work tonight. So beautiful.

The little river twittering in the twilight,
The wan, wondering look of the pale sky,
This is almost bliss.

And everything shut up and gone to sleep,
All the troubles and anxieties and pain
Gone under the twilight.

Only the twilight now, and the soft "Sh!" of the river
That will last for ever.

And at last I know my love for you is here;
I can see it all, it is whole like the twilight,
It is large, so large, I could not see it before,
Because of the little lights and flickers and interruptions,
Troubles, anxieties and pains.

You are the call and I am the answer,
You are the wish, and I the fulfilment,
You are the night, and I the day.
What else -- it is perfect enough.
It is perfectly complete,
You and I,
What more--?

Strange, how we suffer in spite of this.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Other People's Churches

Once my temp job ends in a couple of weeks, I am allowing myself, after years of struggle and misery, a pleasurable idea: Maybe take a vacation?

I've recently been starting to become accustomed to my new role as "Austinite" (after deciding not to move back to NY/NJ). Austinite with $10,000 currently in the bank, bay-bee! And Austinite who is finally regaining some sanity and wants/needs/deserves (?) a simple thing like a VACATION, just like anyone else might get.

Not to NYC. (Been there, done that. I feel I know the place well enough to not want/need to visit right now.) But, boy, do I really miss that crisp, fall air up north! And reading all of the Sexton stuff lately made me want to pay my respects at her grave in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts -- also where Plath lived the first 4 years of her life. Which got me thinking about all of the literary associations in and near Boston that are important/interesting to me (and to those I admire):

Jamaica Plain = Sexton grave, Plath early childhood home
Winthrop = Plath home from '36-'42, plus where Otto Plath is buried (have to see the site of "Electra on Azalea Path"!)
Wellesley = Plath home from '42 through college (and where she first tried to kill herself--OK, that's grim, but...interesting!)
Northampton = Site of Smith College (where Plath lived in Haven House and Lawrence House), and where Plath/Hughes lived in '57 while she was teaching at Smith

Then there's Boston itself: I do of course want to see things of historical importance to the founding of our country. And I want to see Harvard just because it's Harvard. But then there's especially... Beacon Hill, where Plath/Hughes lived. And The Ritz (now called "The Taj"), where Plath/Sexton/Starbuck drank weekly after attending Lowell's workshop.

And in non-Plath/Sexton news: Salem! I want to feel the atmosphere, pay my respects at the memorial and visit the museum. And a big bonus: Nathaniel Hawthorne's "House of the Seven Gables" house is there! And while I'm in the mood for the American Renaissance (one of my top 4 favorite literary periods), there's also Melville's "Arrowhead" home in Pittsfield, Mass., where he wrote "Moby-Dick" and "Bartleby, the Scrivener," among other classics/favorites of mine.

Whew. I'm kind of tired just thinking about all of that! The initial New England-y idea came about just because I have some extra money to go stay in a bed-n-breakfast for a week during the lovely fall season in a part of the country that I didn't know but got a taste of while living in NY/NJ... And then all of the above kicked in! There's SO much to do and see while I'm up there. Stuff that's meaningful to me psychologically/intellectually, along with the sensual part of just enjoying the crisp fall air and colors.

Is it true that I can be a "normal" person living in a city I call home and simply taking vacations every now and then, just like "normal" people do? What a concept. (Something along the lines of, "Wow. I'm a person who has the music I like around me." Or: "Wow. I'm a person who has a variety of clothes to wear to work.")

I still, though, can't quite even imagine "relaxing" and/or "being happy." Funny that my idea of "relaxation/happiness" is going to visit a bunch of memorials to dead people. But then, even when a high-schooler, my idea of "interesting" was driving with my new license to decrepit local graveyards, and attending other people's churches just to see what was going on.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Berlin Memories (1920s)

NYC Memories (1970s)

Writing vs. Talking Cure

After SCREAMING at my 71-year-old mother on my birthday because she wasn't hitting the turn lanes quickly/accurately enough while driving me to my birthday-dinner restaurant, I came home after the subsequently subdued dinner (and pie at her house)--driven by my brother!--and drank and drank and drank and went off on a tangent right here about "SHE NEVER LISTENS TO ME! SHE'S NEVER LISTENED TO ME! I feel like a real shit for yelling at my mother, but..." The written tirade went on and on, and I ended up staying up 'til 6am spilling out the gist of every hateful thing I'd ever felt about her since childhood.

Did I feel better afterwards? Nooooooo, I certainly did not. What happened instead is that I felt horribly hung over after 11 (!) beers, and even worse emotionally/psychologically, and stayed in bed all day Sunday (despite having some freelance work to do), staring at the TV/sleeping and crying because I felt so all-the-way-around shitty.

Are my mother and I emotionally close? No, we are not. And we haven't been since I was maybe 9 or so. Does she get on my nerves? Yes. And she has since I was 12 or so. Do I know that she's a terrible driver? Yes, I've been aware of this for the past 30 or so years.

So what was the big "surprise" on my birthday that we weren't "connecting" and/or she wasn't driving well?? Why SCREAM at the woman like that? Am I to be one of those cowardly adults who felt somehow abused as a child but couldn't say anything, and then only let every nasty thing out as an adult on a parent weakened by age? I have my grievances with my mother, sure, but I decidedly do NOT want to be that type of bullying adult child. I completely LOST IT with her Saturday. I apologized at the time, but that doesn't feel like enough...

Oh, re the "writing vs. talking cure": When I went in to work today, a co-worker asked how my birthday had gone... All the gory details came inadvertently bursting out (to the woman's dismay, I'm sure!). She was so kind when she listened, asking appropriate questions, expressing sympathy, agreeing with me that I was way too mean... The difference between writing out my angst and talking about it with a real human: the former fueled my anger and hatred/self-hatred, while the latter drained most of the bad feelings and made me feel somewhat normal and functional again. (As did the routine of work today.)

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Odd side-note to Kayo Sexton's 2nd wife's family

I REALLY am bored at work! Witness the below info that I came upon while searching (for want of anything better at all to do) for "Peggyann Totten," Kayo Sexton's second wife.

One thing from the May 2012 Kayo Sexton obit that I posted days ago that stood out to me was at the end: "...Donations may be made to ... Families for Depression Awareness in Waltham..." I just automatically assumed that this organization was touted by daughter Linda Gray Sexton, in recognition of what her mother Anne Sexton's mental illness had put their family through years earlier. Not so! It has nothing to do with Anne Sexton, but rather with Peggyann Totten's son Mark, who killed himself in 1990. After his suicide, his sister Julie Totten founded the Families for Depression Awareness organization.

So Kayo Sexton had to deal with the very same horrific issue TWICE in his life... A subduing thought. (Life just keeps comin' atcha, doesn't it, though?) Somehow I'd bizarrely assumed that his second wife was care-free and simple, an antidote to his years with Anne Sexton. But every union has its own unique set of griefs and trials.

Below is a 1990 article re son Mark Totten's suicide:


Subject: Sidha Suicide (TM-EX Newsletter, Albert Miller)
X-Index: 0003

From: TM-EX Newsletter, Fall 1990


I'd known Mark Totten for years. He had no medical problems. Likeable
and unassuming, my friend had cut his roots to his New England home
and heritage some years ago. He had reached for the Maharishi's exotic
offering; gave his money, mind and speech for Yogi's game of

``He must have found something here,'' Norman Totten said, bewildered
in the M.I.U. chapel, after having to ask for the time to speak at
his son's memorial service on Friday, November 30. He knew of nothing
that was wrong with his son. Mark's sister added she didn't know why her brother killed himself.

Without his roots to sustain him on the Maharishi's nebulous and
distracting meditation path, Mark suddenly exchanged it all for the
certainty of a 200-ton locomotive: Four blocks from the M.I.U. campus
he placed himself in the path of the early morning coal train at the
North Main Street crossing.

The Maharishi's, ``self-referral dynamics of consciousness, laws of
nature, perfect health and freedom,'' the hyped benefits which Mark
had paid for with more than money, were not realized. Something else
was realized that morning, something alien to his New England
mind. (Albert Miller eulogy)


Mark Totten

Mark Alan Totten, 27, a resident of Building 123 B, Maharishi
International University, Fairfield, Iowa, was killed early November
29, 1990 after apparently placing himself in the path of an oncoming
Burlington Northern train near the Fairfield depot.

The railroad crew reported hitting a body on the tracks at 2:12 a.m.
Totten originally was from the Boston area. He was the son of Norman
Totten of Newton, MA, and Peggyann Sekton [sic] of Weston, MA.


p.s. I also found online that Peggyann Totten owns a 3-family rental home in Boston.
Thanks, Internet.

It's intense being Joan Crawford.


Tuesday, August 07, 2012

In-the-closet gay girl, 1986

Not out of the closet for another 3 years, at 20 I only had "Following" and "September Gurls" to give me any sort of pop musical idea of feelings between women.

Both from The Bangles' 1986 album, "Different Light," both sung by bassist Michael Steele. (A girl, despite the "Michael." You know, like "Michael Learned" from the Waltons...)

A secret thrill to listen to; finally, my own exact feelings on a mainstream album. (Though, interestingly, "September Gurls" was written by a BOY! Big Star's Alex Chilton. The "I was your Butch" part from the original, the Bangles had to take off, with record-company pressure. No honest ambiguity allowed.)

As a 20-year-old in 1986, I had the following lesbian/bisexual role models thus far: Lana Turner's out gay daughter Cheryl Crane appearing on Phil Donahue in the early '80s; movie stars like Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich; a poetry professor at college saying that my work reminded him of Djuna Barnes (which made me seek her work out); and songs like this. Thrilling to me as a youngster, sure. But... I also got the message of "shamefulness" and "weirdness" and "secrecy." Cheryl Crane, who'd murdered someone as a troubled teen, the only "out" lesbian. All the movie stars closeted, despite their overt multiple-partner heterosexuality, and their covert affairs with women. The lesbian Djuna Barnes completely cloaking everything she wrote. These Bangles songs cloaked.

All a dumb, young, hopeful kid could do was try to read around the insinuations. Knowing, but not knowing. Nothing free and clear and happy. No bursting out with a big, public, joyful "I LOVE YOU!" or "I really like you" as relations between two people should be at the beginning.

It makes me sad that a whole formative chunk of gay people's lives has been taken away from them like this. We never got the chance to be innocent and "fall in love" as teenagers. We, for necessary self-preservation, are usually forced to repress every primal spiritual/sexual urge, only finally coming out in bars (the only place available to us) in our 20s or 30s, amid a bunch of older addicts and vultures (most decidedly "UN-spiritual"). It's a real life-warping horror and shame.

You think I'm crazy or something
Always following you around
You say I'm a hopeless case
Run an obsession into the ground

You call me a loser
You call me a shadowing fool
Look over your shoulder
And you say I'm haunting you

So why do you call me
Why do you look for me
Why do your eyes follow me the way they do

You hold me responsible
Yeah, so I stand accused
Of causing all the trouble
After high school
(Between him and you)

You call me a loser
You call me a shadowing fool
But I was a good girl
Yeah, 'till you taught me
What it means to be true

Why do you call me
I know you look for me
Why do your eyes follow me the way they do


[original lyrics by Alex Chilton, 1974; the Bangles' version "cleaned up" the "Butch" and other gender-inappropriate references upon the 1986 release]

September girls do so much
I was your Butch and you were touched
I loved you, well, never mind
I've been crying all the time
December boys got it bad
December boys got it bad

September girls, I don't know why
How can I deny what's inside
Even though I'll keep away
They we'll love all our days
December boys got it bad
December boys got it bad

When I get to bed, late at night
That's the time she makes things right
Ooh when she makes love to me

September girls do so much
I was your Butch and you were touched
I loved you, well, never mind
I've been crying all the time
December boys got it bad
December boys got it bad
December boys got it bad, woo ooo

Monday, August 06, 2012

I think The Dream is over.

After all of my bitchin'-n-moanin' over the past 2 years about missing NYC/Weehawken and feeling trapped in Austin, etc., I just recently realized: When I get my last paycheck for my temp job ending August 31, I will have $10,000 in the bank. More than enough to make the move back up north if I wanted to. Wow. Freedom to do EXACTLY what I (thought I) wanted to do.

The thing is, though: I'm still TIRED. Still scarred from the trauma (it was a HUGE trauma) of both the year-long decline while still up north (no regular work, the inevitable having to leave getting closer each day) and of the coming home 2 years ago, then all the shuffling around from place to place getting re-situated (my mom's old house in San Antonio, then her new house in Austin a month later, then the apartment I'm now in, 2 months after that). It was a nightmare that I don't feel quite ready to potentially re-visit just yet.

Of course, the second time around, I'd know a little more and do a few things differently:

[Picture here the movie "Bonnie & Clyde," where, in bed while they're on the lam, Bonnie asks Clyde contemplatively what he'd do over again if he had the chance. She's hoping for something like "Get a job at a store, get a little house..." but instead he muses, "Well, first, we'd pull our jobs in different states..."]

(1) Sign right up for temp legal proofing that it took me 8 months to figure out how to get, for one thing. (And this time I'd be a veteran, not a newby that people were taking a chance on.) Take ANY temp job offered me instead of declining secretarial stuff. And this time, I'd already be in with one publishing company that's been sending me stuff every couple of months for the past 2 years.

(2) Avoid roommates from Craigslist! :) Sublet a place for one month. That time allowing me to search for apartments. Focus immediately on New Jersey: Weehawken, West New York, Union City---where rents are much cheaper than NYC but travel into the city only takes 15 minutes. (Last time I went in totally blind, not knowing ANY area, and certainly being scared of Jersey!) :)

(3) No cat to worry about this time. (Poor Gracie!) :( And having a lot less stuff sent. (Last time, my poor mom had to mail me my computer tower and boxes-and-boxes of books, clothes, etc.) This time I'd carry my laptop on the plane with me. Have my iPod dock and ONE box of books/ONE box of clothes sent, the rest in my suitcase with me. And know that I could find a cheap TV for $20 and a cheap bed for $200, and cheap plates/glasses/flatware at dollar stores. It really doesn't take much to set up housekeeping. I've found that you just really need a bed, a table, a TV, and a computer.

Hey, maybe I'm talking myself into something! :)

Nah. Even given the above, I pretty much don't feel like Starting Over YET AGAIN! I did it in New York the first time, I've been doing it back in Austin for 2 years now. I kind of want to RELAX just a little bit!

And I'm also much more aware of the negatives: The pay for publishing jobs up there is about the same as the pay down here. And the rents are more than double. (Half of monthly income going to rent, as opposed to a third or so.) The first time, I thought I'd find a glamorous job in a publishing house. In fact, there are billions of girls from the city and from Ivy League schools just as good as I am (and with much better pedigrees), and who, because they're subsidized by their parents at first, can easily work for $30,000 a year while making their way up the ladder to better jobs. I'm no spring chicken and don't have the luxury of starting at the bottom any more. And, after nearly 30 years of renting, I'm ready to spend my middle years in a nicer place. In New York, I'd be able to afford a tiny one bedroom, if that. I want the 2-bedroom house I rented from 2000 to 2007 back!! :) I can have that here in Austin, eventually. I can't ever have that up north. I also want REAL furniture again! No more particle-board bookshelves, etc. I've been stretching and straining for 5 years now, up until the last few months of this temp job. I LIKE having clothes and new books and new CDs! I LIKE the idea of my current building up instead of tearing down and starting from scratch YET AGAIN.

Still, the feeling's melancholy. A final seal on my Youthful Dreams and Ambitions. And a definitely middle-aged adult want/need to "hunker down" and try to salvage what I can. (My new "dream": Not to live in a one-room apartment when I'm old!) :) It's personally sad, but it's not tragic.

I had to laugh at myself when I saw the below cartoon from Roz Chast in The New Yorker a few weeks ago. I kinda feel like those people as far as what my meager impetuses are at the moment! :)

The dream is over. What can I say.

Death, I can't explain

Accident of Hope

FROM "An Accident of Hope: The Therapy Tapes of Anne Sexton":

When she asked him why he loved her, Kayo told her that he loved her because she was like 'a many-sided diamond, though rough.'

SEXTON: ...And I liked that. He didn't have to put it so poetically, but it said a lot.
MARTIN ORNE (Sexton's psychiatrist): For somebody who's got no soul, it's a remarkable statement.

A p.s. to the author of "Accident of Hope," Dawn Skorczewski: It's more than a little odd to pose next to the grave of Anne Sexton wearing skimpy shorts and a big "I'm trying to look attractive" smile for your author photo. (Why not just light up a joint and wave it around for the camera while you're at it?) Where's your respect for both Anne Sexton and her grave?

Addendum a day later: I was about to add above: "You're not 17, and this ain't Jim Morrison at the Pere Lachaise!" But then got to thinking: Anne Sexton really was kind of Dionysian, a la Morrison. Albeit in a different context. A context -- upper-middle-class housewife and mother -- that she obviously didn't feel, soul-wise, at home being in and did everything in her power to subvert every chance she got, because she never had the opportunity to escape it, until middle-aged and too late -- only then discovering that the "freedom" wasn't at all as good as promised. (When you're young, all the scrabbling around is fun and interesting; by your 40s, it's merely nonsensical.)

In short to author Skorczewski...sorry for being so judgmental! :)

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Permission to Enter

(from "Permission to Enter" by Zadie Smith, in the 7/30/12 New Yorker)

"...but still she didn't approach Frank, nor did he approach her, despite their keen awareness of each other. A poetic way of putting this would be to say, 'There was an inevitability about the road toward each other which encouraged meandering along the route.'"

And from my head, all day Sunday, after seeing "Unfaithful" (Diane Lane getting dressed for meeting her soon-to-be lover):

At the start of our affair
her finger traced an outline
where a heart had been...

I like this terribly sad/yet profound testament-to-the-power-of-true-love movie a lot, and the above lines really have nothing to do with it (other than feeling Lane's anticipation while choosing a bra). And I couldn't get any more of the poem to come after that. Argggggh.

Saturday, August 04, 2012


A couple of years before she died in '74, Anne Sexton asked an up-and-comer in the poetry world, J.D. McClatchy, to be the executor of her literary estate. He demurred, telling her that an artist's work was better kept in the control of the family. Understandable, sure, given Sexton's excesses, but still... McClatchy later became the co-executor of the work of poet James Merrill. McClatchy and Merrill are both gay men. The "principle" of "an artist's work better kept in the family" was suddenly thrown out the window? Better, more honest, had McClatchy confessed: "I was too gay and scared of an extreme women." Merrill, on the other hand, is the epitome of "safe."

Below is something that I just came across a couple of days ago online: McClatchy's account of meeting Sexton at her home for an interview in '72: "And I have very sensitive nipples... you'll see."! :) What a wildly sexy thing to say to someone you just met! But, also: What a way to scare a gay boy! :) (Stereotypically, how funny below that McClatchy claimed to have dreamed the night she died that he was her "son." Really now? Her "son"? Come on. Even in your dreams you're THAT PC/phony of a gay man, not admitting to ANY sexual feelings, even psychologically hidden, for a woman? Faker. Coward.)

Dreamed 1974/10/4 by J.D. McClatchy (from a site called The World Dream Bank):

I got to know Anne Sexton around 1972. We grew to be friends, and were an odd pair. She was by then a celebrity, and a wreck. But a glamorous and compelling one--constantly looped on vodka and pills, desperately divorced, mentally unstable, but dressed in a long red satin dress with her husky voice and raucous laugh. I, on the other hand, was a serious-minded graduate student, nervously gay, wide-eyed.

When I first visited her, to do an interview, I arrived at her suburban house on the dot of eleven, as agreed. One of her daughters answered the door, explained that her mother wasn't feeling well and was still in bed, and would I wait in the living room please. An hour passed. The daughter reappeared and asked if I'd follow her upstairs. Mother was still in bed, but would see me there. I was shown into the bedroom. Anne was in the midst of a huge bed, propped up on pillows, in a swank bathrobe. She motioned me to a chair. I mumbled something about not wanting to trouble her. That launched her on an account of her recent woes and illnesses. She wound up with the latest complaint, rubbing her hands over her robe. "And I have very sensitive nipples," she said. "You'll see."

Yikes. I'd only just been introduced. Oh, but all that sorted itself out soon enough, and we became pals. Within a couple of years, she asked if I would serve as her literary executor (I declined)--a request, I only realized later, that was part of a determined and gradual withdrawal that culminated in her suicide. A couple of weeks before she killed herself, she was calling me from the pay phone in a mental hospital, insisting she was receiving radio transmissions in her cavities and would I come check her out of this hellhole. My sympathy pulsed, but even I knew enough not to intervene. She came home. I called in. And when, one day that I telephoned, I was told by a housekeeper that Anne was in Baltimore, giving a poetry reading, and would return tomorrow, I said that I'd call back the day after. In fact, I forgot to do so.

That night I had a dream. I was watching the evening news. Walter Cronkite was announcing that the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Anne Sexton had died, and behind him was an inset showing some sort of grainy home movie of her. She was sitting on a sofa, with a child on her lap. She had on a dress and a hair-do that resembled photographs of my mother when I was small. And the child in her lap, I then noticed, was a young boy, in shorts and a horizontally striped Tshirt, with a buzz cut. I recognized him as well. Sexton had no son. The boy was myself.

Early the next morning, the dream throbbed--when, suddenly, the phone rang. It was Howard Moss. He wondered if I'd heard the news. Yesterday, Anne Sexton had committed suicide.

My dream, of course, had to do with my guilt at not having telephoned her when I'd promised to. But the coincidence was more than uncanny and remains as my only (unreal) experience of precognition. I could as easily--as I do now--have read her last poems to see the same unwinding, the same cries and whispers, the same stark refusals. As a reader, instead of as a dreamer, I could have been a child on her lap.


J.D. McClatchy is a poet whose works include Scenes from Another Life (1981), Stars Principal (1986), The Rest of the Way (1990), Ten Commandments (1998) and the libretto for the opera Emmeline. This account is excerpted from Night Errands: How Poets Use Dreams (ed. Rockerick Townley, 1998, Univ. of Pittsburgh Press).

--Chris Wayan

Thursday, August 02, 2012

My First Love

As a little girl, I was obsessed with Julie Newmar's Catwoman. I loved how she looked and acted! And there was also the odd emotional component: gloating whenever Robin was jealous when she and Batman were potentially about to "hook up"...

(p.s. Didn't know what a Bastet cat was until only a couple of years ago, after my aunt died and my mother brought me home a replica that the aunt had actually bought in Egypt. That's a larger version of the sculpture in the picture.)


Oh yes, yes indeedy. Yesterday at work, things got so monotonous that I started to toggle around on the 'Net instead of working. I mean, I'd work for 20 minutes, then get bored, then surf for a bit, then work a little, then surf...Then I ventured on to Amazon, where I decided that I simply MUST have EVERY SINGLE KISS ALBUM that I used to own, plus ALL of the ones that I didn't, from their debut in '74 through 1979's "Dynasty" (that album, to me, is when KISS ended; I don't care about anything afterwards). So I bought 11 CDs!

Great. So now I'm going to own more KISS albums than Beatles albums. :( Still, it was exciting and fun getting EVERY ONE OF THEM! :) I used to really loooooove these records and was at one time even a member of the KISS Army! My junior high friends and I used to pore over the darker albums like "Hotter Than Hell," seeking "clues to existence" like I imagine kids in the late '60s did with The White Album. (Which I, too, was poring over even in 1983, even playing the thing backward, as I'd heard you were supposed to do!) Aside from KISS's fun, anthemic rock songs like "Shout It Out Loud" and, of course, "Rock-n-Roll All Night," they, to me at age 12 to 14, were the epitome of darkness and mystery and sexuality. (p.s. In the photo, that's me as Paul Stanley. Wearing a Gene solo album T-shirt. With the star on the wrong eye. But, hey, at least we'd finally figured out that greasepaint from Spencer's at the mall worked better than toothpaste, Johnson's baby powder, and black magic marker!!)